Students in 1711

John Mackenzie studied law and joined the Faculty of Advocates in 1681. With his third wife Margaret Hay he had twins, Kenneth and Thomas, born in September 1699. John Mackenzie. Laird of Delvine, lived in Edinburgh and employed a governor/tutor, James Morice, to educate the twins. They went to study at the University of St Andrews in 1711, aged 12. They travelled with their older brother Alexander who had already begun a course at St Andrews but he left in October 1713 to study law at Edinburgh University. Their tutor James Morice made his own way to St Andrews. The twins were at St Andrews University until 1716 and there are several letters by them to their father during this period. There are also regular letters from James Morice to John Mackenzie reporting on the progress of the twins. Below are some extracts from the letters. We have chosen to extract those parts of the letters which refer to mathematics but also some to give an impression of their lives as students. We should note that at this time all students followed a set course at university, so the mathematics studied by the twins was the same for all students at the university. In addition to mathematics they studied Greek through all four years. Latin was studied in the first year, then, in their second year, they also studied logic. In their final year the topics were Greek, ethics and physics. However, the twins did not matriculate and were not studying the regular MA course.

Kenneth and Thomas lived in St Leonard's College, sharing a room with their elder brother Alexander. Since the rooms were meant for four students they had difficulty in keeping the room for themselves. In 1711, life in College was somewhat different from today. Students were wakened at 5 a.m. and had to be in their rooms for the night at 8 p.m.

Before quoting from the letters we should introduce the Professor of Mathematics at St Andrews at the time. He was Charles Gregory (1681-1754) who was a nephew of James Gregory. Queen Anne appointed Charles Gregory to the Regius Chair of Mathematics at St Andrews in 1707. He held the chair until 1734 when his son David Gregory succeeded him. Charles Gregory had some difficulties with the Presbytery in St Andrews when he came to take up the appointment. In 1643 the University Commissioners had laid down that candidates for a vacancy in St Andrews University had to bring with them:-

... a testimonial of their good conversation and affection to the reformation of religion and government of the Kirk presently established in this Kingdom.

In other words only those approved by the Kirk could be appointed. This apparently presented Charles Gregory with some difficulties since at first the Kirk was not satisfied with his character regarding religion. However, he managed in the end to obtain the necessary testimonial.

The first letter we quote from was sent by James Morice to John Mackenzie before they travel to St Andrews. It reports on their preparation for study.

5 September 1711. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

The Laird of Delvine
Edinburgh

Much Honoured
...
They have the arithmetic tolerably well, and have gone twice through the first and second books of Euclid's Elements ...

Your most affectionate, very humble and obliged Servant, James Morice

In view of the fact that much of their mathematics teaching at university involved studying the first two books of Euclid's Elements, this preparation is slightly surprising. On arriving in St Andrews the elder brother Alexander wrote to his father about the journey.

8 September 1711. Letter from Alexander to John Mackenzie

To the much Honoured Master John Mackenzie of Delvin

Dear Father

We came here this afternoon about four o'clock, we had very good weather till we came within two miles of St Andrews, and then came on a dreadful rain which lasted till we were there. Kenneth felt unwell at Perth, but after he had slept an hour he was pretty well again till we came to Ballingry and then they both fell sick, but were well enough in the morning again and continued so till they came to St Andrews ...

Your most affectionate and obedient Son, Alexander Mackenzie.

18 October 1711. Letter from Alexander to John Mackenzie

To Mr John Mackenzie of Delvin at Delvin

Dear Father

... I wrote to you about a fortnight ago and expected an answer about the globes with the case of small Mathematical Instruments for we have much use of them. I love the Mathematics very well, but they are somewhat difficult ... Thomas has been well enough all this while, but Kenneth within these eight days has taken a swelling in his ankles, which he says he used to take every winter, but we have got a surgeon to him, as the town affords, who says he's hopeful that it will soon be cured. ...

Your most affectionate and obedient Son, Alexander Mackenzie.

Despite the request, clearly the mathematical instruments didn't arrive. Also the university tried to put a fourth student into the room the three brothers shared in St Leonard's College.

18 October 1711. Letter from Alexander to John Mackenzie

To Mr John Mackenzie of Delvin at Delvin

Dear Father

Kenneth has been sick these eight days but he is now recovered, and his legs are perfectly well. Thomas continues in good health. ... Mr Pringle ... designed to put Alexander Sharp in the chamber with us till I told him you did not incline to it, upon which he desired me to ask if you know any that you would be content ...

Please send over ... the case of small Mathematical Instruments, and Keil's Euclid for we want them all very much ...

Your most obedient and affectionate Son, Alexander Mackenzie.

On 8 June 1712 Alexander wrote to John Mackenzie, his father, requesting a bow to take part in the Silver Arrow Archery Medal. He wrote in Latin (with some Greek) clearly thinking his father would be more likely to send the sporting equipment if he showed good scholarship. It worked since he acknowledged receiving it on 13 June in a letter (written in English) on 17 June to his father.

By 26 November 1712 the governor/tutor, James Morice, had arrived in St Andrews. The twins were about to start their university course.

26 November 1712. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

The Laird of Delvine
Edinburgh

Much Honoured

My Pupils came to this yesternight about 4 o'clock in good health ... Let me know how often I should write to you, what you allow on the young Gentlemen weekly for their diversion at the golf, and what you think fit to order me to do besides what was recommended to my care formerly ...

Your faithful, very affectionate, and obliged Servant, James Morice

May I remind you to send the Mathematical Instruments when you have convenient time.

29 November 1712. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

For Master John Mackenzie of Delvin at Edinburgh

Much Honoured

Kenneth and Thomas ... have begun anew with me to Euclid and their algebra. Mr Gregory got two guineas when Alexander an I went to wait on him ...

After much asking the mathematical instruments eventually were sent by John Mackenzie.

8 December 1712. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

It was past ten o'clock ere I received ... the lesser case of instruments from Mr Pringle's man... We need not the larger case of instruments at present, but pray mind you send us Parson and Wastal's "Algebra" with the first occasion for it cannot be had here, though Mr Gregory caused write for several copies thereof long ago, and it is the book he most commends for that science ...

Your most humble and faithful Servant, James Morice

Now the governor/tutor, James Morice, received instruction from the professor so that he could teach his pupils.

20 December 1712. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

Since I came hither I have been reading the Conic Sections with Mr Gregory ... which will enable me to discharge my duty with greater satisfaction. ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

12 January 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

Kenneth's heel are not yet free of the chilblains, and seeing my Lady will not allow him to wear two pair of stockings in winter, I wish you would cause send a very thick pair for him ... here he must be in the public and private Schools three hours in the forenoon and about two in the afternoon without fire, which is not good for his tender legs ...When the weather is fair I allow the twins to go to the golf twice a week according to your orders ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

19 January 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

...
To the best of my memory I wrote sometime in December that Kenneth and Thomas were going through Euclid's "Elements" and the algebra which are so necessary for an auditor of the Doctrine of the Conic Sections that I could not begin them to the latter before I found they had the former which will take some time; which was the reason that on 20th last I did not mention what they were doing as to their mathematics. Master Gregory desires you may send Ozanam's "Mathematical Course" for Alexander together with globes, since he is learning astronomy at present with him. ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

19 January 1713. Letter from Alexander Mackenzie to John Mackenzie

Dear Father

... I am learning the Logics with Lawhill and Astronomy with Mr Gregory and am this day begun the third part of it which treats about the Theory of the Planets, and if you would be pleased to send our Globes, I should endeavour to understand how to make use of them. My Gregory likewise desired I might get Ozanam's course of mathematics ...

Your most dutiful and affectionate Son, Alexander Mackenzie.

In many ways they haven't progressed that far since by January 1713 they are still going through the second book of Euclid's Elements which they had gone through twice before going to university.

19 January 1713. Letter from Kenneth Mackenzie to John Mackenzie

To Master John Mackenzie of Delvin at Edinburgh

Dear Sir

We are now ... at spare hours in our chamber going through our algebra, and almost at the end of the second book of Euclid ...

Your dutiful and affectionate Son, Kenneth Mackenzie.

In February chilblains are still a problem! The boys have move from Euclid Book II to Euclid Book V.

2 February 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

To Master John Mackenzie of Delvin

Much Honoured

Within a few days after the date of my last Kenneth's heels became entirely whole, and Thomas's heels that broke out again about that time are now some better since he got the thick stockings. They ... are now in the 5th Book of Euclid ...

Much Honoured
Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

Students sometimes get up to pranks which get a bit out of hand.

9 February 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... On Thursday last at night a student in the Old College went to St Leonard's College to see an acquaintance of his there who had provided 4 ounces of powder at least to be spent in squibs on Friday, which they began to prepare that night but ... they kindled all the powder that lay spread on the table; whereby the right hand and whole face of the one was blasted, and the cheeks and both the hands of the others ... I did not so much let [Kenneth and Thomas] go out to Evening Prayers in the College that night for fear they might have sustained some harm at the bonfires, whereat some were discharging pistols and others throwing coals at one another ...

Much Honoured
Your honour's faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

Of course professors are paid directly at this time so payment is discussed. Also the governor/tutor, James Morice, is getting the mathematics instruction rather than the twins and then he is teaching them.

23 February 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... You may remember that instead of Kenneth and Thomas going to Mr Gregory your will was that I should and pay him one guinea for which you was to allow me the two, so that there will be one guinea more than is above mentioned ...

Much Honoured
Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

The professor of mathematics, Mr Gregory, didn't always keep his appointments!

9 March 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... Having this last month gone several times to attend the Professor of Mathematics here at 5 o'clock which was the hour he could best spare for me from his other scholars, as he said; I was ashamed to be seen often knocking at his gate, and immediately returning by reason of his not being within. This is not to say that he neglects Alexander; for he has the hour between 9 and 10 before noon to convene in with other lads that attend his lessons, which Mr Gregory fails not to observe punctually but since the day became longer, the Masters of the University are frequently out at the golf in the afternoon and his being with them gives me ground to grudge and to ask your advice, what should I do next quarter, whether I should desire another hour of Mr Gregory or in case I could think reasonably with myself that I have now as much mathematics as might take up all Kenneth and Thomas's spare time till Martinmass next you would be content to bestow the money Mr Gregory was wont to get for them an mathematical books profitable for us to be used by us in common as long as we continue together and to be divided at parting so that I may have the half of them in lieu of the guinea you was pleased to allow me quarterly for teaching them. ...

1 June 1713. Letter from Alexander Mackenzie to John Mackenzie

Dear Father

I have learned my Logics once over, and an learning them for the second time together with the metaphysics which are not ordinarily taught till the Bachelor year. With Mr Gregory I have learned his Doctrines of Astronomy his catoptrics and dioptrics, and a little before the end of the last quarter I began to Kyles Physics. We will have the public examination here towards the end of this month, because of which I would rather incline to read my logics carefully against this time, than go to Mr Gregory seeing all the rest who were in the class with me go away from him this year, unless you shall be pleased to order otherwise. I am Dear Father

Your most affectionate and obedient Son, Alexander Mackenzie.

2 June 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... I need Ozanam's "Mathematical Course" for them [Kenneth and Thomas], which I entreat may be sent with the first occasion. It was with reluctance I advanced that item in the enclosed account ...

Much Honoured

Your honour's faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

8 June 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... They have the public examination before their hands which they are to undergo about the end of this month ... I would fain have Ozanam for them as soon as possible, that there may be no interruption in that study. ...

Much Honoured

Your faithful and most affectionate humble Servant, James Morice

14 October 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... I pray give me leave once more to remind you of the proposal I made in Spring last regarding Kenneth and Thomas's mathematics, which was that instead of my going to attend Mr Gregory's lessons, you would be pleased to buy us Ozanam's "Course of Mathematics", which you say cost 3 or 4 lib Sterling. If, Sir, I should this year wait 2 quarters on Mr Gregory it would be 4 guineas out of your pocket, reckoning in the 2 you allow me, and though I should be a little strait'ned, I could be content to want that part of my allowance, that I might have a full Course of Mathematics beside me while I teach Kenneth and Thomas whereby I would have a full view of my business. I proposed only for my compensation to have the half of the Mathematics Course at parting. ...

Your faithful and most humble obliged Servant, James Morice

9 December 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... I received yesterday ... Ozanam's "Mathematics Course" in 5 volumes whereof we shall not fail to be very careful ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice


9 December 1713. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... Kenneth and Thomas's ... progress in Ozanam is slow, their Logics necessarily taking up so much of their time ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

3 March 1714. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... Kenneth and Thomas will be once through their Logic by the end of this week ... During the April vacation we ... began to the third volume of Ozanam ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

9 June 1714. Letter from Thomas Mackenzie to John Mackenzie

Dear Father

In May and so much as is gone of this month, we have not only had our ordinary lessons on our hands, but also theses to impugn in our Private Schools ... and now ... we must either read our Logic course with application, or be affronted when the rest answer better than we. This fear has made me desire to be excused from Greek or Mathematics till the end of this month. ... . I am Dear Father

Your most affectionate Son, Alexander Mackenzie.

2 August 1714. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

We are advancing in the third volume of Ozanam ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

15 November 1714. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

I received the ten pound Sterling Note enclosed in you last. At spare hours we do not neglect Ozanam; his method will bring us in a short time to the study of Geography, wherein we will need good globes, and none are allowed the use of the public globes out of the library, and you may remember the old one we had at Delvine was so abused before we got it that we could do little good with it, therefore if you new globes could be got transported safely to this place, it would be a great help to my twins and I should be answerable for the care of them while here. ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

30 December 1714. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... I desire to know with your convenience after your return to Edinburgh whether we are to get the use of your globes; that I may know how to direct my pupils after they have read over Ozanam's fortifications. ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

14 February 1715. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

My pupils having learned their Metaphysics with their Regent, are presently to begin their Pneumatics. We began this month Ozanam's 4th volume concerning Mechanics; for we delay the study of Geography till you shall vouchsafe to let us know your will about your globes, which would contribute very much to my lads having a clear notion of the geographical problems. ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

7 March 1715. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... As to the globes I beg leave to show you how Donald had his carried from Glasgow to Blair Athol.... After he had put them into two boxes and fastened sticks between the horizons and the boxes to keep them from rubbing thereon, they were put on a horse's back above two creels and so transported very safely, the carrier having a thick cloth with him to throw over the boxes in case of rain...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice

Next they undertake some practical mathematics. Note that a graphometer was a semicircular instrument used for measuring angles.

13 April 1715. Letter from James Morice to John Mackenzie

Much Honoured

... This vacation Mr MacDonald has gone out with them [Kenneth and Thomas] and me to make trial of some geometrical practices, relating to heights and we measured a piece of ground with a chain, and we took up the angles of an irregular field with a graphometer, whose figure being projected on paper we found the content thereof ...

Your faithful and most humble Servant, James Morice


JOC/EFR April 2007

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